Directors: Bernard Campan, Alexandre Jollien (France, Switzerland). Year of Release: 2022
The film opens by switching between 2 men’s stories. Louis is a funeral director, owner of a large parlour dealing with 800 bodies a day. But he’s a hands on kind of boss, so we follow him around town, comforting customers. He agrees with the atheists that there is no God who can resolve this. Not long after, he’s sharing prayers to help the more religiously inclined through their grief.
Meanwhile Igor is cycling around town on his tricycle, orange headphones clamped to his ears as he delivers organic vegetables. He takes his time sauntering around, attracting the ire of angry motorists, without letting this bother him, or even seeming to notice. Igor has bodily problems which affect both his control of his limbs and his voice, and he gives the (false) impression of being not quite all there. In fact, he spends much of his spare time reading and quoting philosophy.
Louis and Igor’s lives come into contact quite literally when Louis runs Igor off the road. As Igor is bleeding, Louis takes him to hospital but seems eager to get off as quickly as he can. Easier said than done – the next day, Igor visits Louis’s work with a present (a pineapple, since you ask). Although Louis insists that he’s too busy at the moment to talk, Igor follows him around, having decided that the two are destined to be firm friends.
Louis’s work are short of a driver, so he decides to take a corpse from their base in Switzerland to Southern France – 2 days’ drive away. He ignores his staff’s pleas that they need him in the office, saying that they can deal with everything without him. I think the point that is being made here is that Louis may be a boss, but look! He’s one of the workers really, so we should feel deep sympathy for him.
Now look at what’s happening here. Unless the company has a different wage system to, well, pretty much every other company in Switzerland, Louis has decided to take on a job that is pretty well down the pay scale, while leaving his deputy to deal with the problems for which he is, presumably, well remunerated. We later learn that Louis has personal reasons for taking on this particular job. So, he’s not just mucking in with everyone else, he’s slacking off.
Louis is a few hours on his way to France when he hears a sound in the back of his hearse. Igor has been lying next to the coffin, “making a metaphysical experiment”, as he explains. They’re too far on to drive Igor back, so they’re bound together, even sharing adjoining rooms in a hotel. Louis seems to be embarrassed by the enforced company, but it is difficult to resist Igor’s Tigger-like geniality.
What do you think will happen next? Will the two get to learn from each other, so that by the end Louis is introducing Igor as his friend? Well, it’s in the trailer, so that’s hardly a plot spoiler. This is a film containing much more sentimentality than surprizes. Inasmuch as things happen, they are incidents like a hen party all being charmed by Igor, or a prostitute (yes, sex worker, but in the end credits the role is literally listed as ‘the prostitute’) sleeping with Igor after he says he’s ugly.
One review called Igor’s character the disabled equivalent of a manic pixie dream girl, and I quite like that description. He is an idealised person whose physical disabilities lead people to treat him as being less intelligent than he really is. So on the one hand, he’s someone to be pitied. On the other, liberals can view him as being nearly as good as they are – someone they can patronise without feeling that they are being too superior.
Take Igor’s tendency to quote Philosophers, for example. Because we know he is cleverer than people who think he’s an idiot, this is seen as endearing, as being proof that they are just wrong and Igor must be wise. But just think for a minute. If someone you knew started every sentence with a quote from Socrates or Nietzsche, it wouldn’t be too long before you’d be looking for every excuse possible to get away from the pretentious prick, would it?
Bernard Campan and Alexandre Jollien, who play Louis and Igor also direct the film, and Campan also co-wrote, so at the very least it is a film from the heart. And, maybe irrationally, I felt a surge of relief when I heard that Jollien really does have cerebral palsy. It’s not a disease that I’d wish on anyone, but there have been enough bad precedents of able bodied actor playing characters with apparent mental problems to think that this could ever be a good idea.
So, the film is predictable, sentimental and a little smug. It must be rubbish, right? Well, no, actually. There really is a chemistry between the two leads, and you do feel for them. I think this is something that may well have worked well as a short film. The problem is, since you know pretty much from the start where it’s going, even 1½ hours is more than enough time. It’s not a terrible film, but it’s not all that great either.